The U.S. issued its first passport with an “X” gender marker this week, which LGBTQ advocates haled as a historic moment for the legal recognition of non-binary gender identities.
“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” said Special Diplomatic Envoy for LGBTQ Rights Jessica Stern.
“Offering a third gender marker is a significant step towards ensuring that our administrative systems account for the diversity of gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics,” she said. “Because people do not always fit within a male or a female designation, it doesn’t benefit anyone to have inconsistencies between people and systems.”
From 1977 to this year, the Department of State only issued passports with an “M” or “F” gender marker. Prior to 1977, U.S. passports didn’t have gender markers on them at all.
This past June, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the Department would make it easier for transgender individuals to correct the gender marker on their passports by lifting the requirement for medical certification of one’s gender identity. He also said that people will be allowed to choose X as their gender marker to make the process more inclusive “for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons” at some point in the future.
A federal judge ruled in 2019 that the U.S. had to issue a passport to Dana Zzyym – who is intersex and non-binary – without an M or F gender marker. The State Department did not say if the passport issued this week was for Zzyym.
Stern said that the X gender marker will become a part of the routine passport application process in early 2022, citing technological updates as the reason for the delay.
Several other countries, including Canada, New Zealand, and Pakistan, allow for gender markers on passports beyond M and F.